Safeguarding Data: Ransomware Defense Essentials

There are 1.7 million ransomware attacks every day, that’s 19 ransomware attacks every second of every day. These attacks result not only in financial loss to a corporation, but also in exposure of personal data for individuals. To mitigate this risk, one essential tool in your cybersecurity arsenal is data-at-rest encryption. In this article, we will explore what ransomware attacks are, how they work, and how encryption can be a powerful way to safeguard your data against ransomware.

What are Ransomware Attacks?

Ransomware is malicious software that gives an unauthorized person access to company data, programs or even the entire computer system. These unauthorized users then maliciously scramble (encrypt) files so that they cannot be used, and often demand a ransom payment to reinstate the original files. Over the past few years, ransomware attacks have become increasingly sophisticated, and the potential costs associated with them in terms of ransom payments, lost data and time, are quite substantial.

What happens in a Ransomware Attack?

Ransomware attacks use a combination of advanced techniques. Here’s a brief overview of the typical process for attackers:

  • Infiltration: Ransomware typically gains access to a system through phishing emails, malicious attachments, or vulnerabilities in software and systems.
  • Search and Identify: The ransomware scans the victim’s system to locate valuable data, which may include documents, images, databases, and spreadsheets. It then identifies files to encrypt, focusing on those most likely to be important, such as Social Security numbers or other personal identifiable information (PII).
  • Encrypt: The ransomware then employs strong encryption algorithms to scramble files. It replaces the original data with ciphertext, rendering the files inaccessible and useless. Typically, a unique encryption key is generated for each victim, which in turn makes it challenging to recover the data without the attacker’s cooperation.
  • Demand Ransom: After encrypting the files, the ransomware displays a ransom note, demanding a specific amount of cryptocurrency in exchange for the decryption key. The victim is typically given a deadline to make the payment.
  • Theft: The attackers often have two objectives: collect ransom, but also steal valuable data to be sold on the black market. If the attacker can access your data to encrypt it, they can also take a copy of your data for themselves.
  • Data Recovery: If the victim pays the ransom, they receive the decryption key to unlock their files. However, there is no guarantee that the attackers will provide a working key. Additionally, paying the ransom encourages further criminal activities.

How can you protect your business?

Train users on security awareness

As end-users and employees are typically the most common vector for cyber attacks, it is critical to provide security awareness training. Having a basic understanding of cybersecurity knowledge can often prevent attacks at the source.

Backup your data

Backing up data to external destinations, such as separate removable storage or cloud servers, is an easy way to mitigate risk. If you are the victim of a ransomware attack and have backed up your data continuously then you may be able to wipe your computer and restore clean backup files. The most popular approach to backing up your data is to follow the 3-2-1 rule: keep 3 separate copies of your data on 2 different storage types with 1 offline copy.

Keep systems and software updated

It’s important to keep your systems and software updated. Cybercriminals frequently use unpatched security holes to access networks. Outdated systems or software open up vulnerability portals throughout your code and data. Legacy systems are particularly susceptible and require special attention. Third party products, such as NetLib Encryptionizer, that specialize in older systems might be needed to shore up security.

Two-Factor Authentication (2FA)

While a robust secure password may feel sufficient, your company should consider implementing two-factor authentication (2FA) for all login activity – internally and for public-facing portals. 2FA is an identity and access management security protocol which requires at least two forms of identification or information in order to access systems. Typically the first factor is your password, and the second is a piece of additional information that is usually unique at login time. With 2FA, you have options and aren’t limited to one approach.

CAPTCHA (Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart) – the test which presents an image or set of questions which you must answer correctly, the challenge and response. The test is intended to thwart automated attacks by bots. The response to the challenge is typically the answer to a question or puzzle that a human can understand but a bot cannot figure out.

Challenge Questions – questions and answers that are stored with your account which you set up when you created your account. When you log in, the website asks you one of the stored questions and your answer must match to continue.

Authentication Code – a unique, one-time use code generated at the time of attempted login. Typically a code is sent to your known mobile number or email address. Or you might use an Authentication app, like Google Authenticator, that generates a new code every minute. The code must match what the login page is expecting.

Biometric Authentication – the method of verifying identity using a piece of “who you are” – unique and not replicable. This can be a fingerprint, facial features, your eye, even voice print or typing behavior. This method is usually associated with logging in with a device where you have stored your biometric information.

These methods of 2FA can be highly effective and are among the top methods today to prevent hackers. 2FA can seem cumbersome to use and is regularly overlooked; however with the extra protection a hacker is likely to move on to an easier target.

Contact your local FBI

Although contacting your nearest FBI station might not be your first instinct, these trained professionals can play a crucial role in resolving or negotiating ransom demands and addressing general hacking issues. Even more importantly, providing information to the FBI contributes to documenting the targets and tactics used in these attacks, enabling the FBI to proactively address future threats based on collected data. Notably, certain hacker groups can continue to evade capture unless their activities are recorded and stopped.

Install antivirus software and firewalls

Antivirus and antimalware software can scan, detect, and respond to cyber threats. However, you will need to configure BOTH antivirus software and firewalls because antivirus software only detects an attack once it’s already in the system.

Encrypt your data-at-rest

Ransomware attacks have become increasingly prevalent and sophisticated, targeting individuals and organizations of all sizes. Here are some ways encrypting your data can help against ransomware attacks:

Protection: Ransomware scrambles your data and holds it hostage until a ransom is paid. Attackers can also steal your data before they alter your files. Data-at-rest encryption acts as a robust defense against this form of digital kidnapping. Even if the ransomware attackers manage to infiltrate your systems, securely encrypted data remains inaccessible without your own decryption key. If your data is encrypted with a known encryption solution, ransomware attackers may be deterred, as the encryption makes it more difficult for them to identify valuable data for extortion.

Preservation of Data Integrity: Ransomware often alters or destroys data to pressure victims into paying a ransom. With data-at-rest encryption, you can be confident that your data’s integrity is maintained. Data-at-rest encryption ensures data integrity by detecting and preventing unauthorized changes. If ransomware attackers attempt to tamper with your data, the encryption safeguards its reliability.

Compliance and Legal Requirements: Many industries and regions have strict compliance requirements regarding data protection and encryption. Failing to meet these requirements can result in legal consequences. Encrypting data against ransomware attacks not only protects your data but also ensures your compliance with relevant regulations.

Your data-at-rest encryption solution

That’s where NetLib Security comes in: we exist for the sole purpose of protecting your data. We offer an affordable, flexible, simple, and scalable patented data security platform that will protect your data-at-rest within a few clicks and virtually no impact on performance. Request a free fully functional evaluation to see how easy it is to deploy.

About NetLib Security

NetLib Security has spent the past 20+ years developing a powerful, patented solution that starts by setting up a formidable offense for every environment where your data resides: physical, virtual and cloud. Our platform simplifies the process while ensuring high levels of security.

Simplify your data security needs. Encryptionizer is easy to deploy. It is a cost-effective way to proactively and transparently protect your sensitive data that allows you to quickly and confidently meet your security requirements. With budget considerations in mind, we have designed an affordable data security platform that protects, manages, and defends your data, while responding to the ever changing compliance requirements.

Data breaches are expensive. Security does not have to be.

NetLib Security works with government agencies, healthcare organizations, small to large enterprises, financial services, credit card processors, distributors, and resellers to provide a flexible data security solution that meets their evolving needs. To learn more or request a free evaluation visit us at www.netlibsecurity.com.